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Israeli Peace Talks Progress Slowly; Major Divisions Reamain Unresloved

By Marjorie Miller and Robin Wright
Los Angeles Times
EREZ CROSSING, Israel

Meeting near the site of recent gunfights between Israelis and Palestinians, the two sides resumed peace talks Sunday after U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher talked separately with each and appeared to endorse the Israeli position that the violence had created new "circumstances" for the negotiations.

Trying to salvage the peace process, the two teams and U.S. peace envoy Dennis Ross opened the low-level talks Sunday night at this dusty crossing between Israel and the Palestinian-ruled Gaza Strip.

Christopher told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem and Palestine Authority President Yasser Arafat in Gaza that conditions on the ground remain dangerous and that President Clinton is seeking quick results from the negotiations here, which follow an emergency summit at the White House last week.

Christopher said their talks must be held "within the four corners" of signed peace accords between Israel and the Palestinians. But, referring to the recent unrest, he added, "It's a practical agreement that can take into account the changed circumstances resulting from the tragic events."

Israel is demanding tougher security measures as a result of the clashes between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian police officers a week and a half ago that left at least 75 people dead and more than 1,000 wounded. The Palestinian position is that security arrangements were laid out in detail in the signed accords and the only thing to discuss is implementation.

The administration wants to avoid a repeat of the situation after the Washington summit in which Israeli officials returned home gloating over their victory at not having made any concessions in response to the violence. Christopher appealed to both sides in private meetings not to negotiate in public and to avoid inflammatory statements that could trigger new violence.

Netanyahu said after his meeting with Christopher that Israel is not proposing to reopen the peace agreements but, "in the framework of the language of the agreement, to make necessary adjustments, particularly in the area of security."